books · On Writing

Killer Rabbit Versus Plot Bunnies

This spring, a number of writers have mused with smiles over “plot bunnies.” I’ve been writing for years now and never come across the term so researched it further.

Moments later, I was awash in multiple interpretations and elaborate remedies for plot bunnies. Depending on genre, craft, and personal preferences, plot bunnies are a wondrous result of nurturing ideas or a fearsome plague to be eradicated.

The interpretation I like best starts with John Steinbeck:

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

A dozen? I’ve got dozens of dozens. Years in the wilds of corporate marketing, leading brainstorming sessions, and developing new products taught me to cherish every idea. A wily rabbit flips an ear in a come hither ploy and scampers off. Sometimes the fluffy white tail led to awkward, dark rabbit holes while other times, there are fresh meadows with mysterious wildflowers.

For me, my bright, sparkling distractions are more like jewels scattered across a beach. I run from one to another, dropping the early ones so I can pick up this next best one. My mind goes silent, dark, and somber when faced with discipline, rigor, and full attention on the work that is to be done.

An early reader scolded me when I updated her with my progress on a new piece. She advised me to go back to the one that she’d read, finish it, and then move on to the next.

I rely upon her guidance and cherish her support, so I finished my coffee and went back into the original. She was absolutely correct that it was time to go back. However, time spent with the new idea yielded insights and riches for the original one. I returned to the heart of my story with energy, respect for my characters and their decisions, and grateful to be back home.

I came back with a new friend, the Killer Rabbit. She is charged with keeping the plot bunnies safely in their gardens and fields while I plow through my current work in progress. Only the tiniest baby bunnies are afraid of her. She is cautious grandmother, trusted guide to keep creativity flowing.

My plot bunnies live happily in their warren. It is warm, comfortable, stocked with carrots and marvelous greens and marvelous story ideas. We visit, discuss ideas, and when it’s time, they head out to the meadow to play and I head back to my novel in progress.

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